Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year journalism student.
Hear it from someone who is trying to build one..
When we talk about what journalism is, what it means, and what one does as a journalist, most people have one response- news. However, it is so much more than just news, and I think it is important that you know what it entails before you decide to make journalism a career choice.
What’s journalism about
It’s about – truth, stories, responsibility, analysing and presenting data, and above all, it is an oath to the people that your writing will be unbiased, fearless, and critical.
A common mistake that people make is confusing journalism with media and while journalism is a kind of media, media is more of an umbrella term for the audio-visual industry. Journalism, on the other hand, occupies a smaller niche of writing about events, people, stories, all in an attempt to help shape public opinion and make a difference.
If any of this resonates with you, you’re at the right place. So how do you become a journalist?
To be fair, it isn’t easy and neither is it a short process. The industry is competitive and challenging. It is hence a commitment. A commitment to yourself, and one to the people who rely on your writing.
Where do you start?
As an 11th or a 12th grader, the question of the future does seem daunting. While choosing arts and humanities subjects is more suitable to help you get acquainted with history and politics, you can get into journalism with any subjects in high school and this comes from experience. (I had physics, chemistry, and maths and took a round turn)
The next step is choosing a degree.
While there are several journalism (Journalism Hons) and Mass Communication undergraduate degrees that are available in both government and private colleges, an alternate way is doing a Bachelors in English, History or Political Science and then doing a Masters in Journalism.
If you choose the former, you will most likely have to take an entrance exam which assesses reasoning, language, and general knowledge, and then appear for an interview. This is the procedure followed by a lot of the country’s private colleges. Government colleges, on the other hand, are more merit-based and they give more importance to your high school marks.
How do you choose between private and government institutions?
This is where your college research comes in.
While choosing a college, we keep a few things in mind- faculty, placement records, and exposure. Private institutes (say, Symbiosis) are more expensive than government colleges (like Delhi University). So, talk to people around you. Find people who did the same courses you’re interested in and then weigh the pros and the cons.
Throughout your undergraduate degree, you must read and write and find suitable internships where you are allowed to develop your writing skills. Receiving feedback on your writing becomes very important.
Also, let me add this – we give more than necessary importance to 12th-grade marks. They matter, of course, and I’m not saying they aren’t important, but they aren’t everything, and you do not need to be a state topper to be a journalist. That being said, good marks never hurt anyone.
Once you graduate, finding your place in the niche isn’t easy. You must have mentors, a good set of writing and internship experience, and mostly, the passion and the drive. An undergraduate degree in journalism can be followed by a Master’s in Journalism/International Relations/Global Policy etc.
There is no shortage of colleges. If you want to study journalism, there are endless options. Here are some.
- Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication, Pune
- CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru
- Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi
- Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal
- Amity University, Noida
- Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru
- University of Mumbai
- Indraprastha University
- Delhi University
- Indian Institute of Mass communication
- Film and Television Institute of India
What skills do you need?
Along with the qualifications, there are certain skills that you need to possess before you jump into higher education.
The first is good communication skills and command over the language you choose. No, it doesn’t have to be only English, you can always pick a regional language. What is important is that you develop the skill of effectively communicating with your audience with clarity and ease.
The second skill that is important is reading and allowing yourself to form opinions, unlearning old ones and learning new ones. Whenever we form opinions about issues, political or not, it is important that we educate ourselves first. So, read. Articles, editorials, books.
Then there’s another challenge. Which opinion do you pick and which side do you pick. Whatever opinion you form, make sure you have evidence in you favour.
All this being said, journalism is again, not just writing. It is writing for the people, with integrity and truth.
From magazines to media houses to newspapers ad public relations departments, a career in journalism is larger than it seems to be. People who are journalists are also authors, environmentalists, human rights activists, columnists, analysts and researchers, and academicians. So no, you won’t just sit on a desk and write. You’ll also constantly learn, travel, explore and of course, write. It’s a package deal.
The good news is that because we live in an increasingly digital world, you’ll have many options. First, you must try and join a newspaper as an intern or copy editor. Get the hands-on experience – don’t worry about your pay, the exposure and experience are what matter at this point.
Also, start sending submissions and your resumes to online news platforms – make a list, a big list, and shoot out emails to the right people (do some digging on who these are).
Last, but not the least, have your own blog – Medium is on great option. When someone googles you and reads your work, that’ll be your best introduction. Be active on social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter – it’s where your employers are.
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